Near Eastern Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Graduate programs leading to the PhD degree are offered in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian Languages and Literatures; Near Eastern Archaeology; Cuneiform; Hebrew Bible; Biblical and Judaic Studies; Egyptology; and Islamic Studies. Degree requirements should be completed according to the University's normative time standards. Normative time for an advanced degree in the department is seven years for the MA plus PhD, and five years for those entering with an MA. Students are urged to complete the MA requirements in two years, and the PhD requirements in an additional five years.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
    • courses in English as a Second Language,
    • courses conducted in a language other than English,
    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833. Official IELTS score reports must be mailed directly to our office from the British Council. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years.

Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

All applicants should have fulfilled the equivalent of the departmental requirements for the BA degree. Minor deficiencies in preparation would need to be repaired in the student's first year of graduate work.

The PhD Degree

Applicants to the Near Eastern Studies graduate program may already hold the MA or an equivalent degree.  Students earning the MA in this department need to pass a Permission to Proceed examination after completing the other MA requirements.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

*The requirements below are in addition to those fulfilled while earning the MA degree.

(For students entering the program with an MA in a related field, any deviations from UC Berkeley's MA degree stipulations are treated on a case-by-case basis and must have official approval.)

Prior to Advancement


While there are few specific required courses for the PhD program, it is expected that a student will include seminar work in at least two divisions of the department. Upon the advice of appropriate faculty, students select courses that will prepare them to meet the requirements for admission to candidacy. The two required courses for every graduate student in the PhD program in Near Eastern Studies are:

NE STUD 291 ; and

NE STUD 200  (if not already satisfied as part of the MA degree requirements in the Department).

Language Concentrations and Islamic Studies concentration
Course electives that include the following:
At least 12 units of coursework during each semester at the 100- or 200-level, with lower-division language courses as appropriate.
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1
NE STUD 291Dissertation Writing Workshop4
Archaeology & Art History, Near Eastern Concentration
Course electives that include the following:
At least 12 units of coursework during each semester at the 100- or 200-level, with lower-division language courses as appropriate.
At least 2 years of course work in a single ancient language during graduate career, or pass proficiency exam
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1
NE STUD 291Dissertation Writing Workshop4
Archaeology & Art History, Egyptian Concentration
Course electives that include the following:
At least 12 units of coursework during each semester at the 100- or 200-level, with lower-division language courses as appropriate.
2 semesters of ancient Egyptian language beyond second-year level during graduate career, and pass proficiency exam in Egyptian and/or Coptic
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1
NE STUD 291Dissertation Writing Workshop4

Fieldwork for students in Egyptian and Near Eastern Archaeology/Art History

Each student specializing in Egyptian or Near Eastern Archaeology/Art His­tory must acquire practical experience in archaeology or museum studies. The student should confer with his or her examination committee on ways of gaining this experience, which may include participation in excavations, study in approved museums, or other activities related to fieldwork and approved by the examination committee.

Foreign Language(s)

All PhD students must have passed reading examinations in two modern European languages before proceeding to the preliminary examinations. The modern language proficiency examinations will follow the form prescribed under the MA requirements (see the Master's Degree Requirements tab). Students who have passed through an MA program of this department will already have satisfied the requirement in at least one language. Credit is not given for language examinations taken at other schools.

Preliminary Exams

The department requires that its doctoral students pass comprehensive written preliminary examinations before proceeding to the comprehensive oral qualifying examination (QE). Students are eligible to take the written examinations after completing all prior requirements for the PhD. Students must complete one written preliminary examination for each subject area specified in the application sent to the Graduate Division to be covered during the comprehensive qualifying examinations. Three comprehensive written examinations are required, therefore, to cover the student's major subject area and two minor areas. The preliminary examinations may be of any written form determined by the examiners, but it is suggested that they should consist of a choice of not more than three from a wide range of essay questions. Students should consult with their committee members well in advance concerning the form that each examination will take.
 For all students in the department specializing in a Language Concentration (Cuneiform Studies, Hebrew, Arabic or Persian Language and Literature, and Egyptology), the comprehensive written preliminary examinations will include examinations in at least two Near Eastern languages.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is designed to reveal the breadth and depth of the student's knowledge, as well as his or her sophistication of reasoning. It is therefore not to be concerned narrowly, nor to be concerned solely with a dissertation prospectus. Based on the student's performance, the faculty will determine whether the candidate is ready to enter the research phase of PhD study. Students are eligible to take the comprehensive oral qualifying examination after passing the written preliminary examinations.


Before applying to the Graduate Division for advancement to candidacy to the PhD, the student must first obtain approval of a dissertation prospectus on an appropriate topic from his/her proposed dissertation committee. The prospectus should include a detailed outline, a short essay-type description of the dissertation, and a bibliography. A proposed timeline to completion and methodology statement are frequent additions to the prospectus.

Time in Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy

After the student passes the oral qualifying examination, the student must apply for advancement to candidacy. Before submitting this application, the student must first obtain approval of a dissertation prospectus on an appropriate topic from his/her proposed dissertation committee.


The completed dissertation must be signed by all three members of the dissertation committee. It is the student's responsibility to be in touch with all members of the committee and to arrange for each member to have enough time to review each stage of the dissertation.

Dissertation Colloquium for PhD Candidates in Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Programs

All PhD students in the Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern programs are strongly encouraged to give an oral presentation (approximately 45 minutes) on their dissertation. The candidate should consult with his or her dissertation advisers to determine the scope of the presentation. The colloquium should be scheduled during the advanced stages of the dissertation and must be attended by the candidate’s dissertation inside committee members. It is expected that all graduate students and faculty in Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern programs will attend dissertation colloquia.

Required Professional Development


Every year, the department appoints graduate students as graduate student instructors (GSIs) to teach discussion sections of lecture courses and sections of language courses. As part of the PhD program requirements in Near Eastern Studies, each graduate student should act as a GSI for a minimum of one course during their graduate career. In exceptional cases, this requirement may be waived with the approval of a student's faculty advisory committee.

Master's Degree Requirements


In addition to the courses required for specific concentrations in the MA in Near Eastern Studies (listed below), all entering graduate students must take the following course:

NE STUD 200  

Language Concentrations, & Islamic Studies Concentration

24 units course work in 100 or 200 series, including 12 units graduate courses (200-level) in Near Eastern major language24
3 semesters, Near Eastern minor languageVariable
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1

Archaeology & Art History, Near Eastern Concentration

24 units of course work in 100 or 200 series, including 12 units in 200-level courses24
NE STUD 223Seminar in Near Eastern Archaeology2,4
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1

Archaeology & Art History, Egyptian Concentration

24 units of course work in 100 or 200 series, including 12 units in 200-level seminar courses; may include one graduate-level Egyptian language course in 200 series24
2 semesters Ancient Egyptian language beyond second-year levelVariable
NE STUD 200Graduate Proseminar1

Foreign Language

The students must pass the modern European language proficiency examination or receive approval of the graduate advisor and dean for a waiver of the examination before applying for candidacy for the MA degree. In this department, the language required is normally French or German. Another modern language may be substituted for one of these if it is clearly necessary to the student's field of study. Any such substitution must be approved by the graduate advisor and the student's advisory committee.

Preliminary or Field Exams

The student must successfully complete written examinations covering one major and two minor fields. Two research papers, one of which must demonstrate bibliographic mastery of a given topic, must be placed on file in the departmental office at least four weeks prior to the MA examinations. These papers may be written in the context of coursework taken for the MA or may be written independently of coursework, under the supervision of a faculty member. Any paper submitted as an MA paper must be approved by the faculty member for whom it was written, as well as by the MA committee.


The department appoints graduate students as graduate student instructors (GSIs) to teach discussion sections of lecture courses and sections of language courses.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students must be advanced to candidacy prior to taking their comprehensive MA examinations. The student's petition for candidacy must be filed after the student satisfies the European language proficiency exam requirement and before the student appears for the MA examinations.


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Near Eastern Studies




Faculty and Instructors


Azza Ahmad, Assistant Adjunct Professor. Arabic Languages, CMES.

Wali Ahmadi, Associate Professor. Persian languages, Persian literature.
Research Profile

Asad Ahmed, Associate Professor. Islam (social and intellectual history).
Research Profile

Adam Benkato, Professor. Iranian Studies, Senior Research Scholar at CMES.

Daniel Boyarin, Professor. Talmud, rhetoric, Christianity, genealogy of, invention of Judaism.
Research Profile

Simon Brelaud, Assistant Adjunct Professor. Assyrian Studies, Syriac Language.

Ahmad Diab, Assistant Professor. Modern Arabic Literature.
Research Profile

Ronald Hendel, Professor. Textual criticism, Hebrew bible, ancient Near Eastern religion and mythology, Northwest Semitic linguistics.
Research Profile

Chana Kronfeld, Professor. Comparative literature, modernism, Hebrew, Yiddish, modern poetry, minor literatures, politics of literary history, feminist stylistics, intertextuality, translation studies.
Research Profile

Margaret Larkin, Professor. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Rita Lucarelli, Associate Professor. Near Eastern Studies, Egyptology.
Research Profile

Maria Mavroudi, Professor. Byzantine studies.
Research Profile

Nasser Meerkhan, Assistant Professor. Near Eastern Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese.

Benjamin Porter, Associate Professor. Archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology, Middle East, Arid Environments, anthropology, Heritage, tourism, and Museum Studies.
Research Profile

Carol A. Redmount, Associate Professor. Egyptology.
Research Profile

Francesca Rochberg, Professor. History of science, ancient near east, cuneiform studies.
Research Profile

Niek Veldhuis, Professor. Digital humanities, intellectual history, Sumerian, cuneiform.
Research Profile


Rutie Adler, Lecturer.

Hatem A. Bazian, Lecturer. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Elsa Elmahdy, Lecturer.

Gholam-Reza Ghahramani, Lecturer.

John L. Hayes, Lecturer.

Sanjyot Mehendale, Lecturer. Near Eastern studies, Central Asia, Central Asian studies, archaeology and art history.
Research Profile

Haitham S. Mohamed, Lecturer.

Laurie Pearce, Lecturer.

Barbara Richter, Lecturer.

Jason Christopher Vivrette, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Ayla Algar, Lecturer Emeritus. Turkish language and literature, language pedagogy.

Hamid Algar, Professor Emeritus.

Robert B. Alter, Professor Emeritus. Comparative literature, Near Eastern studies, 19th-century European and American novel, modernism, literary aspects of the bible, modern and biblical Hebrew literature.
Research Profile

Guitty Azarpay, Professor Emeritus. Art and archaeology of the ancient Near East and Central Asia.
Research Profile

Ariel A. Bloch, Professor Emeritus.

Chava Boyarin, Professor Emeritus.

Wolfgang J. Heimpel, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Anne D. Kilmer, Professor Emeritus.

David Larkin, Lecturer Emeritus. Egyptology.

James T. Monroe, Professor Emeritus.

Jaleh Pirnazar, Lecturer Emeritus. Modern Iranian history Persian language and literature, Iranian Cinema.

Martin Schwartz, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Muhammad Siddiq, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

David B. Stronach, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Near Eastern Studies

250 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3757

Fax: 510-643-8430

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Department Chair

Francesca Rochberg

262 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3757

Head Graduate Advisor & Graduate Advisor in Ancient Studies

Niek Veldhuis

280 Barrows Hall

Graduate Advisor in Islamic Studies/Arabic/ Hebrew/Persian

Asad Q. Ahmed

272 Barrows Hall

Graduate Student Services Advisor

Deanna Kiser-Go

250B Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-4915

Undergraduate Assistant

Rania Shah

250A Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3758

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